Illustrator Chetan Sharma on the joy of working with children

Chetan Sharma while signing a copy of ‘The Lion’s Feast’  

Illustrator Chetan Sharma knows how much rides on a book cover. “It is the illustrations that catch your attention and add value and colour to the story and make a book stand out in a library or a store where there are hundreds of other books,” he says.

Working with kids and watching their faces light up when they some illustration catches their eye is what Chetan loves the most about his job. The Mumbai-based illustrator was in the city to participate in the second edition of Vizag Junior Literary Fest where he conducted illustration workshops for children of age four to 12 years.

“Literary fests are proof that reading will always be apart of childhood. Fests like these can inculcatereading habits in hundreds of children. It is good to see smaller cities like Visakhapatnam spearheading such fests,” he says.

For the love of sketching

Chetan got into animation at the age of 15 when it was still nascent . He illustrated his first book for Chennai-based publishing house Karadi Tales almost two decades ago when he was 19 years old. He founded an animation studio called Animagic India. Today, he dons several hats - film-maker, animator, writer designer and voice-over artist. “I always loved making picture books and comics until I discovered the magic on animation,” he grins.

Heart for art
  • Chetan Sharma won the National Film Award for Best Animation Film in 2005 for Raju and I.
  • He illustrated his first book The Monkey King when he was 19 years old.
  • Though he appreciates the technology that has made animation faster and easier, he still prefers pencil and paper as his immediate mode of expression
  • He also dubs voice overs for most of the films that his animation studio Animagic India make. This includes films like Tripura and Swami Ayyapan.
  • He is currently working on The Grand Chapati Contest written by Asha Nehemiah for Duckbill Books

As a child it was not so much the narrative as the illustrations that drew Chetan to books. “I remember skimming through the pages and admiring the pictures that they held. I always loved to draw and had made a series of my own comic books. In my teens, I knew that this was something I wanted to continue doing all my life. It is all a part of the natural impulse to draw and tell stories,” he says. Today he has illustrated a dozen of storybooks and worked with big corporate houses for advertisements. “Making a animation film is a very long and laborious process. It takes months or even a year to make them, however, picture books are quick and fun to do,” says Chetan. Looking back he says that the character of Bhasmasura from the Karadi Tales story Bhasmasura & Bakasura – Gods & Demons was what he enjoyed the most. “I just loved the characters; so every illustration was fun to me.” While animation films kept him busy for over eight years (2008-2016), he returned to illustrating story books with The Lion’s Feast again from Karadi Tales. “So even that book has a special place in my heart,” he adds. His latest book is Ramu at the fair for Ms Moochie books. The book is based on a boy who visits a fair for the first time and is mesmerised by the lights and the number of food and shopping stalls. The story revolves around his fear for the giant wheel and his father’s efforts to convince him to board the wheel.

Chetan Sharma conducting a workshop for children

Chetan Sharma conducting a workshop for children   | Photo Credit: J_Akshay

Into the imaginative world

Explaining the process of illustrating a storybook, Chetan says that like most of the creative jobs, ideating takes the longest time. “Once you have an idea about what your characters would look like and the scenario in which the story is set, the rest of it just flows. The biggest challenge, however, is to give the imaginary world a touch of reality.” He gives the example of the animation film titled Raju and I . “It was set in Mumbai. So to make it real, we kept the backgrounds of the illustrations a bit untidy, and not every building in the film was posh and fancy. There were shabby local trains and unclean roads in the film. That’s how parts of Mumbai are and that is what needs to be portrayed,” he explains.

Happily, he says the children’s books are constantly evolving. “Publishers and authors are more responsive now. They are ready to experiment and add more Indian characters to books as they make the content relatable. This is a positive change that will hopefully bring up a generation that loves reading.”

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 11:19:06 PM |

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